I had spent my whole night falling in love with Shaun White. I watched from the edge of my seat as he took the gold in men’s halfpipe. I cried honest-to-god tears when he received his score on his final run. I whooped and hollered along with him as he embraced his family.
I woke up this morning wondering “When did Shaun White get hot?” And so I spent (much too much) time Googling “Shaun White through the years” to pinpoint when it was exactly Shaun White became sexually attractive to me (a transformation that started some time in 2012 and was complete by 2013).
HOWEVER, then I pulled my head out of the Olympic snowdrift of feel-good content long enough to catch this fucking horrifying story and complaint against Shaun White from last year. (Must’ve missed THAT recap package, NBC and literally every other major news outlet.)
The complaint alleges that Shaun White harassed a woman in his band with vulgar text messages, videos and overall jackass behavior. He even (allegedly) tried to demand she cut her hair a certain way to fit his image of the band. You know, Shaun White’s famous band? The band with its iconic image? That band.
But excuse me if I’m a bit soured.
Anyway, last night was the men’s halfpipe. Since he scored so high in the qualifiers, Shaun would be hitting the pipe last each round. (Presumably, that potentially left him more time to shove a screen playing ‘Shake the Bear’ in someone’s face.) His first run earned him a 94.25, positioning him atop the pack.
Shaun obviously was hoping to sit comfortably in first place, but his second run was less successful, opening him up to be outdone by Japanese snowboarder Ayuma Hirano in a stunning second run that earned him 95.25. (You could almost hear White asking Hirano, “are u sure this is the decision u want to make?”)
It’s moments like this that make me wonder if the judges and producers are in cahoots. The way the tension mounts before Shaun White is up for his final run, it all comes down to this. He’s sitting in second place. We just watched the video package about how he thought he was done, but he wasn’t done, in fact, he’s back stronger than ever, etc. and so on. It feels like the climax of a Rocky film. (But imagine Rocky yelling “Yo, Adrian, cut your hair above your shoulders, but keep your bangs!”)
White delivers on a massive third run, and the camera lingers on him as he awaits his score. When the score drops, it’s a massive 97.75. White bursts into tears, like someone just stuck their hands down their own sweaty pants and made him smell them. This makes White’s third gold medal and the United States’ 100th medal of all time at the Winter Olympics.
Hooray? I guess?
The other big event we were scheduled to see last night was Mikaela Shiffrin’s big Olympic debut on the slopes, but, thankfully for a ski-hater like me, the weather once again delayed the event until Friday. Oh well! Sorry, Therese!
Instead, we got a small grab bag of performances from speed skating and pairs figure skating.
I feel like the 1500m speed skating event is one of the most ideal Olympic events. It’s just long enough to build drama, but not long enough to get boring. They skate two at a time, so there’s a race element to it that gives each run some obvious stakes, but it’s not as chaotic as when there’s too many skaters all at once falling and rolling on the ice while wearing essentially swords on their feet.Embed from Getty Images
We really just dropped in ever so quickly to speed skating, and the most interesting person was Dutch skater, Koen Verweij. This beautiful, Targaryen motherfucker lost the gold in Sochi by .003 of a second. (See frustrated, Harlequin romance novel photo above.) I can’t even begin to quantify how fast that is. How he didn’t just whisper “Dracarys” and melt the whole rink down, I’ll never know.
This time, his opponent around the track took a spill, and, even though he didn’t tumble with him, Verweij ended up out of medal contention. Still, Holland House must been LIT last night regardless, because his Dutch teammates took gold and silver.
After so very much snowboarding, we were also treated to just a morsel of pairs short program figure skating. (Is that the right order of those words?) As excited as I was for the new rule allowing music with lyrics this year, I gotta say I’m pretty disappointed with the results.
It feels like everyone is taking a page from the Shonda Rhimes book of soundtracking, which means there are a lot of sleepy, gloomy covers of pop songs. Good god. Would it kill someone to skate to Carly Rae Jepsen? Cardi B? Truly, the world did not need a slowed-down version of U2’s “With or Without You.”Embed from Getty Images
The exception is Italy’s pair, Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek that do a full camp performance where Ondrej plays a lovable scamp, and she’s trying to get away from him? I think? At one point she slaps him? I don’t really understand. But at least it’s uptempo, and they’re wearing fun red & white outfits like tablecloths in a pizza joint. This all couldn’t be more quintessentially Italian unless they were, I don’t know, dressed like meatballs and skating while holding opposite ends of spaghetti in their mouths.
The best of the bunch were the Chinese pair Sui and Han, skating a gorgeous short program to a beautiful (but dreary) cover of “Hallelujah” by k.d. Lang. It was breathtaking. Their tehcnically flawless performance earns them 82.39. (For comparison, American married pair Chris and Alexa Knierim earned a fine 65.5, qualifying them for the free skate portion of the pairs competition.)
Canadians Meagan Duhamel and the first openly-gay man to win gold at the Winter Olympics, Eric Radford, skated to the aforementioned U2 cover. Sadly, my DVR fully seized up during their performance, so I have no idea how it turned out. It must’ve been pretty good, because, according to the internet, they got a 76.82 and are currently in third place.
Tonight, I pass the baton back to Therese. She’s on deck to cover the pair’s free skate (dangit!), speed skating, Alpine (we’ll see about that!) and the most horrifying of all Olympic sports, skeleton!
First, I must admit I am hopelessly out of the loop on this year’s games. Typically, I’m deep into all the athletes’ backstories, I’m reading some website called “Bleacher Report” (which sounds like it should be a Gossip Girl-style blog about all the handjobs I gave in high school) and I can parrot back whatever political and environmental turmoils are plaguing this year’s games. However, as they say, life gets in the way. And for me that involves hurting my back and muddling through with the aid of muscle relaxers. So pardon me if I am (somehow) even less informed than normal.
Secondly, as Foolish Watcher’s foremost homosexual, it is my duty to spend at least part of my time with you talking about Adam Rippon. I know Therese was very busy getting her cranky pantaloons in a right twist over the way the skaters are scored, but I can’t underscore enough how much Adam Rippon means to the LGBTQ community. He is the first openly gay American to compete in the Winter Olympics. Gus Kenworthy came out after the Sochi games, and even Johnny Weir didn’t really officially come out. I know it’s tempting to say well, we all knew about Weir even without him saying it, but that’s not the point. “Foppish,” “dandy” “confirmed bachelors” have of course existed forever and ever, but that neutered sort of representation — carefully avoiding direct connection to the rest of the community and refusing to acknowledge these people are capable of love or sex at all — lacks the same power.
(Which is not even remotely a dig at either Weir or Kenworthy, both trailblazers in their own right, for sure.)
Part of Rippon’s impact is owed to the changing times and social mores, but the fact America is so loudly, so proudly celebrating an out gay athlete, especially one that isn’t traditionally masculine, feels downright shocking to me, even as a(n admittedly older) millennial. Just thinking about it makes me weep. If you haven’t already, drop everything and read this incredible take from the incomparable Richard Lawson. He says it better than I ever could.
Now, with that bit of earnest reflection out of the way, here’s Adam Rippon singing Rihanna’s “Diamonds” before skating the shit out of it at some non-Olympic thingy last year.
Wasn’t that fun? That’s the kind of thing I’m here for. Unfortunately, that is not the kind of thing we got to watch Monday night as part of NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage.
Instead, we spend the majority of the evening at the women’s halfpipe to see American snowboarder Chloe Kim become a goddamn star. Her performance is truly breathtaking. But for the other one hour and 57.5 minutes we’re watching snowboarding, I’m fantasizing about some apres ski at a beautiful chalet talking shit with Adam Rippon.
Something I’ve learned over the last DECADE (jesus.) blogging the games is that it’s very, very hard to get invested in the events where athletes compete one at a time. A traditional “race” is a thrill to watch. The stakes are clear. When you spend an hour or so watching a dozen athletes take multiple runs, it all starts to blur together. (And it’s even harder when NBC makes horrible production decisions to cut back and forth between events like some human shell game.) The exceptions are gymnastics and figure skating, obviously, because music, drama, sparkles, etc.
Most of the winter events are particularly hard to get invested in because all the athletes are in weird head-to-toe space/snowsuits, helmets, balaclavas, giant reflective sunglasses, etc. It’s like watching Daft Punk on a snow day. Which member of Daft Punk are you rooting for? Do you even know either of the Daft Punks’ names? Exactly.Embed from Getty Images
Compounding the situation further is the fact that American Chloe Kim is heavily favored in this event, by like a whole lot. Imagine, if you will, that you had to watch Michael Phelps’ events, except each swimmer has to swim one at a time. That sounds interminable, right? RIGHT.
So excuse me if I forgo the typical blow-by-blow to really stick to the important stuff.
With snowboarding, it’s tough for the untrained eye (mine) to really get a sense of what’s a good run and not. Some people fall. That seems bad. But for those that don’t fall, they all seem pretty evenly matched. Even the commentators at points are surprised by how high or low the scores turn out to be. Same, gurl. Same.
The exception, of course, is Chloe Kim. I can’t say I’ve ever been really “moved” by snowboarding, but her performance on this halfpipe was fucking poetry. Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps. The heights she’s able to achieve and the grace with which she lands feels second to none. The joy she exudes at the bottom of the pipe is palpable. I love Chloe Kim so, so much.
Each boarder gets three runs with only the highest score counting, and most of the competitors sort of whiff their first pass. Not Chloe. She comes barreling down the pipe and earns a truly massive 93.75, putting her way ahead in first place after only her first run. The commentators tell us she’s called “the Queen of the Pipe” (Same, gurl. Same.), and I can see why.
By the time she was ready for her third run, Chloe was still COMFORTABLY atop the scores. The gold was hers. Officially. She could have taken a full Countess Luann tumble, rolled all the way to the bottom of the halfpipe and still took home a gold medal. But that’s not what Chloe did.
Instead, she OUTDID HERSELF on her third run with a trip down the halfpipe so gorgeous it scores a whopping 98.25!Embed from Getty Images
This girl is 17, y’all. She’s hopefully got a lot more games in her. She’s the next Phelps. She’s the next Shaun White. She is giving young girls and young Korean-Americans and young immigrants and old TV bloggers and everybody else so much inspiration. She’s our next great Olympic athlete, and she deserves every lick of it.
(Although her post-win interview was predictably banal, like all post-performance interviews with every athlete not named Adam Rippon, take a spin through her Twitter. This girl has a winning personality to match her winning abilities. I can’t wait to see more from her.)
Fellow American Arielle Gold took the bronze, edging out fellow U.S. athlete Kelly Clark, likely competing in her last games. Clark is a five-time Olympian, former gold medal winner and, as the announcers love reminding us, so much older than Chloe Kim. Did you know when Kelly Clark started snowboarding Chloe Kim was NEGATIVE SEVEN YEARS OLD? Because now I do!
Let’s see what else did we see tonight … hmmm … OK, well, we saw part of the men’s super … combined? Or something? I really never understand how the skiing events work. They’re all Super G Alpine Downhill Combined Slalom McTwisty TidePod. Just no clue whatsoever.Embed from Getty Images
The wind and snow situation makes it even harder to follow. Lots of skiers are taking tumbles down the hill, resulting lots of delays and forcing NBC to cut back and forth to the event so frantically it feels like I’m watching some sort of Swiss Dada film. Apparently, dangerous conditions on the slope also made them shorten the track and adjust the jumps? I have no idea how that works, and the commentators do an awful job explaining any of this.
Speaking of commentators, hunky ski daddy Bode Miller is on the mic. By the time we cut away, I believe German skier Thomas Dressen was in the lead after the downhill portion of the event, but all Bode could say is he doesn’t know much about Dressen. Well, neither do I, Bode, that’s why you’re here!
Lastly, we get to spend some time with the men on the halfpipe, but it’s a qualifying round, which I am typically not at all interested in. (Medals and clip packages only for me, thanks.) Because it’s the qualifiers, most of the boarders are holding back, but not American Ben Ferguson. He comes out of the gate (is that what it’s called in snowboarding? The gate?) and immediately hits massive, massive air doing this thing where he just rockets straight up in the air. There’s no spinning, no flipping, no twisting, so other than the fact it is very, very high in the air, it doesn’t LOOK as impressive. But the commentators do a good job explaining that this is actually harder to pull off. OK! Sure! LOL, what do I know?
He earns an impressive 91 points. Everyone is impressed …
… Until Shaun White comes out and nails a run that earns him a 93.25. Ooh, honey, Shaun didn’t come to play, he came to sleigh!
We’ll see how he fares in the finals (I’m guessing pretty well!) tonight, along with multi-medal favorite American Mikaela Shiffrin hitting the slopes in alpine and — YES! — pairs figure skating.
Adam Rippon just tweeted this:
I think I’m in love?
Is it just me or are these Olympic Games more sport than spectacle? Yes, there’s been drama and excitement and whatever the fuck is happening with Ryan Lochte, but where are all the video packages about how Allyson Felix loves basket weaving? Or how Katie Ledecky eats 5,000 pounds of spaghetti a week? Where is Mary Carillo making sand art? Continue reading “The Rio Olympics: Running Out of Interest”